Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

"Oak tree in the middle of Duck Lake Road was an area landmark and curiosity"

Albion Recorder, December 14, 1998, pg. 4

Another quick reminder that my Albion history books and materials are available at the Albion Chamber of Commerce in downtown Albion. These would make great "extra gifts" for the Christmas tree for out-of-town relatives who once lived here, or for other family and friends. Stop by the Chamber this week. They also have available those large Kiwanis cloth "throws" with historical Albion scenes on them. Make it an Albion Christmas this year.

A big windstorm several weeks ago resulted in various large limbs being deposited upon the city streets which had to be removed. Many trees that were planted at the turn-of-the-century when our streets were developed are now dropping their aging limbs on our Albion streets. There once was a place however in Sheridan Township just north of Albion where there was literally a tree that sat in the middle of the road, commonly called the "tree in road" by area residents.

A large majestic oak once sat in the middle of Duck Lake Road in front of the farmhouse at 13710 28 Mile Road in Section 26 of Sheridan Township. This is the farmhouse on the east side of the road just north of New Hope Worship Center.

Duck Lake Road north of Albion in Sheridan Township was part of an early pioneer trail. It was developed by Jesse Crowell, who owned land on the north side of Duck Lake and who was commissioned by the Michigan Legislature to build a road from Albion to Charlotte. When the trail was forged, the tree for some reason was allowed to remain. Perhaps it was too much trouble to cut at the time. Buggies driving by the tree had to move around it.

Its size alone made it an area landmark, indicating that this oak was here years before the white man arrived in Calhoun County. It was a landmark that was mentioned as a reference point in property boundary surveys, and some particular property lines were placed utilizing the location of the tree as a "stake."

A sort of folklore legend developed over this Sheridan Township curiosity through the years. Because of its appearance with long spread out limbs, it was said that this was a "hanging tree" where "justice was served" in the days before law and order arrived in the Michigan Territory. Another popular and more credible idea was that this had been an "Indian Council" tree, where decisions were made by our native Potowatomie residents.

When Duck Lake Road was improved with the advent of the horseless carriage, the tree was allowed to remain. Sheridan Township Supervisor James K. O’Hara (1845-1925) argued that the tree was no menace to society, and it should be allowed to remain. And so it did, for a quarter of a century more. Furthermore, attorney and 1909-10 Albion Mayor Adrian Cooper (1873-1956) who owned land a mile north of the tree, successfully convinced the Calhoun County Road Commission that because of the slow speed and poor condition of the road, the tree posed no serious hazard and that autos could just drive around it if it were properly marked. Of course the speed limit on Duck Lake road back then was only 25 miles per hour. In the following years, the tree was hit numerous times. Cars swerved around it into nearby ditches, and various accidents occurred at the location.

What happened to the "tree in road?" In August 1937 the tree just collapsed, not the result of any windstorm or a 1937 Ford hitting it, but rather ordinary old age. The tree had rotted from within while maintaining an outward appearance of strength. It was subsequently removed the following month by the road commission and soon the way out of Albion towards Duck Lake was a "straight road."

How many persons remember the "tree in road?"

The tree in Duck Lake Road


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